A diet without meat may raise eyebrows but it certainly does not raise health issues. Meat supplies us with our daily requirement of protein but did you know that there are many protein rich non meat food products that can supply the daily need of protein to us? Paneer or cottage cheese, soybeans, jackfruit are all protein-rich and could replace the meat portion of your diet easily. And if you are a vegetarian and wondering about which of the non meat products you should eat to get the daily requirement of protein, then here’s the post you can’t afford to miss. Today in this post, I am going to share with you the list of top 9 protein rich non-meat foods that can fulfill the everyday need of protein, and it must be included in your everyday diet.
Vegetarians maintain a strict no-meat food routine, due to variety of reasons like religious stance, as a protest against animal cruelty or to avoid the antibiotics and hormones pumped into the livestock. There is also the issue of money as a part of the society is unable to pay for meat, but let us not dwell on that for now. Since distribution channels have come a long way, fresh produce is available largely in the markets and maintaining a vegetarian diet is not a concern anymore. There are many protein rich non-meat foods available today and you can buy them fresh from the local market.
Earlier the deficiencies due to avoiding meat were discussed extensively. But today, the table has turned because scientific researchers are proving the advantages of a meat-free diet. According to this study by American Diet Association
“Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”
Clearly, you can be a vegetarian or vegan and still get daily requirements of protein by eating vegetables, pulses and other non meat food products. And today in this post, I will focus on some of the best protein rich non-meat foods which includes veggies, pulses and dairy products that you can include in your diet, if you wish to receive the correct amounts of daily requirement of essential nutrients and protein, without eating meat.
Abstaining from meat sounds impossible, but trust me, the effort pays well. Going vegetarian has a lot of health benefits involved like healthy heart, healthy bones, reduced risk of cancer, preventing type-II diabetes and so on. Keep reading to know which protein-rich vegetables and non mean food must be in your everyday diet.
Best protein rich non-meat foods for vegan and vegetarians
Non meat food products are consumed by vegetarians and vegans. There is a slight difference between them, Based on food habits, they are classified in five different categories which are as under:
- Total vegans: They do not eat any kinds of meat – from chicken to poultry or fish along with no animal-based products like eggs, dairy products and gelatin.
- Lacto vegetarians: They abstain from meat, fish, eggs or poultry but consume dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians: They do not eat fish, poultry or meat but do consume dairy products and eggs.
- Ovo vegetarians: They do not eat meat, fish, poultry or dairy products but do eat eggs.
- Partial vegetarians: They do not eat meat but do eat fish (pesco-vegetarians) or do eat poultry (pollo-vegetarian.)
Decide which diet is best for you and stick to it. So without further ado, let us dive into the necessary veggies and non-meat foods of a vegan diet.
Cottage Cheese or Paneer
According to nutrition data, 226 gms of cottage cheese contains 28 gms of protein, which is 56% of our daily requirement of protein.
Paneer helps in promoting weight loss. As per this study, a diet consisting of cottage cheese, fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils and whole grain is quite beneficial in boosting weight loss and maintaining weight loss. According to yet another research, a diet rich in protein and cottage cheese aided premenopausal obese woman attain fat loss and gain lean muscle.
Cottage cheese contains a good amount of Vitamin B12 that helps with proper development and function of nerves, brain, blood cells and so on. Vitamin B12 maintains levels of homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine causes heart illnesses and neurological problems. Research is being conducted on Nepalese children to observe the effect of Vitamin B12 with the belief that it will help the children boost their neurodevelopment and overall growth.
226 gms of cottage cheese contains 303 mg of Phosphorus which amounts to 30% of our daily requirement of phosphorus and 138 mg of Calcium, which constitutes 14% of our daily requirement of calcium. Phosphorus and calcium together are required to bring strong bones. Since cottage cheese is high in both these minerals, it is an excellent option for bone building. According to this study, lacking either of these minerals causes osteoporosis, especially in women. And if you do not eat meat, then probably the cottage cheese is the best protein rich non-meat food that you can add to your day to day diet chart.
If i have to suggest you just one protein rich non-meat food, then lentils are going to be the the one. Did you know that one cup of raw lentils has 49.5 gm of protein, which constitutes 99% of our daily requirement of protein? Well that’s true, and that’s what make it the best protein rich non-meat food that should be eaten by vegans and vegetarians.
Lentils contain all the necessary amino acids that are required for proper building of muscles and hence, smooth functioning of the body. Lentils can replace meat in any recipe and increase your nutrient and fiber intake. The dietary fiber helps control blood sugar levels. It slows down digestion, slowing down the rate of insulin released into the bloodstream. Moreover, the roughage helps keep away constipation including other digestive issues.
Lentils contain negligible amount of fat and is a good source of protein without the added calories. Therefore, it is good for your heart. The magnesium in lentils is useful in relaxing the cardiovascular muscles and in turn, reduces elevated levels of blood pressure. According to studies, consumption of lentils regularly can help you manage your weight and promote your satiety.
According to nutrition data, one cup of sliced jackfruit contains 2.4gms of protein, which is about 5% of our daily requirement of protein. Jackfruit is a common name among vegetarians who use it to replace meat because of its shredded meat texture. If you are looking for a protein rich non-meat food alternative, then may be consider including jackfruit in your diet.
Jackfruit is rich in Vitamin C, anti-oxidants and varieties of other cancer-fighting phytonutrients like isoflavons, saponins and lignans. These phytonutrients and antioxidants reduce oxidative stress due to free radicals and eliminate the free radicals successfully. This property of it helps to prevent wrinkles, blemishes, age spots while maintaining a healthy and glowing skin.
Jackfruit contains an average quantity of calories. Almost 92% of the calories are from carbs while the rest is provided by protein and fats. Additionally, all the essential vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin B6, Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium etc. are all available in adequate quantities in jackfruit.
Jackfruit is rich in dietary fiber or roughage and hence will support and maintain your digestive system by keeping it healthy. If you are suffering from constipation, jackfruit will solve your problem and then some. The high amount of magnesium in it helps you sleep and it is well known to eliminate respiratory troubles even symptoms of asthma.
The Vitamin B6 in jackfruit is useful in keeping heart diseases at bay. This is due to reduced levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid and a necessary building block of protein. Although, it is still unclear as to how lowered levels of homocysteine reduced the chances of strokes heart diseases but there might be a relationship between homocysteine and arteries, says the this study.
One cup of uncooked quinoa (170gms) has 24gms protein, which is 28% of our daily requirement of protein. Quinoa is, largely consumed as a grain, even though it is actually a seed. With increasing health awareness spreading among the general populating, gluten-free quinoa is gaining more and more ground as a staple food in daily diet.
Chenopodium quinoa has 442mg of I-lysine, which is one of the most important amino acids. 442 mg is more than a fifth of what is, required by your body every day and I-lysine is paramount since it aids you in various health concerns – from preventing cancer to bringing down anxiety. It is, also believed that quinoa has an effect on the activity of hormones that influences appetite, such as insulin, gherkin and peptide YY. As per yet another study, consuming quinoa on a regular basis results in weight loss and augments the level of blood cholesterol. It helps keep obesity at bay.
A chemical compound known as saponin whose effect has been, tested on cancer cells with positive results. Saponins were successful in killing, brain cancer cells or glioblastoma, lymphoma and leukemia cells in the laboratory. Saponins have amazing permeability or the ability to seep through the organ lining, which gives them their ability to fight cancer cells. Quinoa also contains a bioactive compound called Lunasin, which is super nutrient because it has shown positive effect against cancer cells in both lab test and animal test, without harming normal healthy cells, claims this study
Additionally, quinoa keeps your heart healthy, reduces the chances of diabetes and boosts your bone health.
One cup or about 170gm of buckwheat contains 22.5gm of protein, which is 45% of our daily protein requirement. Buckwheat has nothing to do with wheat and it does not contain any gluten. It is chock full of essential nutrients that keep you healthy and fit, so if you are looking for a truly best protein rich non-meat food, then consider buckwheat.
Studies says that buckwheat reduces inflammation and cholesterol levels, thus improving your heart health. Regular consumption of buckwheat lowers the level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increases the level of HDL or “good” cholesterol. (Source: ) According to this report, the phytonutrient Rutin found in buckwheat is an essential antioxidant that maintains blood pressure and the circulatory system.
Buckwheat has a very low glycemic index. The carbs and nutrients in it are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream slowly. This prevents a sudden blood sugar spike and helps you feel satiated for a longer time. This makes buckwheat an especially good food for patients of diabetes.
Asper nutrition data , 170gms of buckwheat contains 98% of our daily requirement of magnesium, 93% of our daily requirement of copper, 111% of our daily requirement of manganese, 60% of our daily requirement of niacin or Vitamin B3, 18% of our daily requirement of Vitamin B6, 42% of our daily requirement of riboflavin or Vitamin B2, 13% of Folate, 27% of zinc etc. Magnesium enhances your digestive health, helps your muscles grow and recover and also helps fight the negative effects of stress. The group of B vitamins and manganese are required for a healthy circulation system and for optimal working of neurotransmitters.
About one cup of tempeh (166 gm) has 30.8 gm of protein, which is 62% of your daily requirement of it. Tempeh is fermented soybean that is becoming a commercial hit due to its health benefits like reducing cholesterol, promoting bone density and muscle mass. Its protein quality is comparable to that of meat.
166 gm of tempeh contains probiotics that shield your body against harmful bacteria like E.Coli or Salmonella. They also sustain our appetite and control our sugar and carbs craving. Probiotics break down sugar so that they become more easily digestible by our body. Tempeh contains 22% of our daily requirement of Vitamin B3 or Niacin, which is important for lowering cholesterol levels in our body. According to this study, supplementing with niacin is a very fruitful method of bringing down the level of cholesterol naturally for those who were at high risk for suffering from a stroke, heart attack or any other type of heart disease due to increased LDL cholesterol, triglyceride and decreased HDL cholesterol.
One cup of tempeh contains 46% of our daily requirement of copper. Studies says, copper has a key role in repairing and maintaining tissues. It is also involved with bone and muscle growth and the growth of connective tissue. Tempeh also contains calcium, which is beneficial for our skeletal structure and prevents fractures, osteoporosis and brittle bones.
Edamames are immature soybeans, which are sold while they are still in their pods. Mostly edamames are sold frozen as a package weighing around 350-400gms. One package of edamame (432 gm) contains 44.3 gm of protein, which is 89% of our daily requirement of it.
Edamames may also possess the ability to reduce the level of cholesterol. As per studies, consuming 47 gm of soy protein daily reduces the overall cholesterol level by 93% and the level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol level by 12.9%. Edamame is also a good source of roughage, Vitamin K and antioxidants. The plant fiber and soy isoflavones ameliorate the blood lipid profile.
100gms of edamame contain 76% of our daily requirement of Folate, 39% of our daily requirement of Vitamin K, 16% of our daily requirement of riboflavin, 10% of our daily requirement of Thiamine, 12% of our daily requirement of Iron, 16% of our daily requirement of Copper, 51% of our daily requirement of Manganese, etc.
Greek yogurt is also called strained yogurt is made by combining live cultures of bacteria with milk followed by straining the whey. Removing the whey removes some of the salt, water and sugar. This makes Greek yogurt thicker, higher in protein and lower in carbs and sugar. Around 100 gms of Greek yogurt contain 10.6 gm of protein, which is 21% of our daily requirement of it. So this can easily be included in your diet chart as a protein rich non-meat food option.
Greek yogurt is packed with probiotics, which boost your immune system and keep away digestive issues like constipation or diarrhea. Probiotics feed the gut flora and enhance the activity of good gut bacteria. Several studies have claimed that probiotics suppress tendencies and thoughts for depression and sadness.
Per 100gms of Greek yogurt, contain 118mg of Calcium, which is 12% of our daily requirement of it. Calcium ensures proper functioning of all your vital organs, while helping to build strong muscles and bones. It is a superb food to maintain your bone health. Moreover, Greek yogurt is a great source of iodine to keep your thyroid glands in optimal working conditions. Shane Griffin, a ratified nutritional practitioner and founder of Whole Life Balance says, “People today tend to be iodine deficient, which can cause serious problems, including rapid fluctuations in weight. For people with weight problems, increasing iodine levels in their diet increases the thyroid’s activity and, in turn, increases their metabolism promoting weight loss.”
Hemp seeds or hemp hearts are seeds of the plant hemp (Cannabis sativa.) Around 100 gms of hemp seeds contain 36.7gm of protein, which is 73% of our daily requirement of it and that makes it the best protein rich non-meat food to eat.
Hemp seeds contain Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA), which is a building block for some prostaglandins that aid smooth muscles, checks body temperature and inflammation and regulates other functions of the body. GLA supplementation is required for improving hormone health, which is why several women suffering from symptoms of PMs are helped by it.
As per this study, hemp seed oil has anti-arthritic effect that reduces the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Hemp seeds suppress your appetite and increases your satiety. Some experts recommend adding four tablespoons of hemp seeds to your breakfast, which will reduce your hunger for the entire day. This is mainly due to the dietary fiber in hemp seeds that keeps you satiated and in turn, promotes weight loss.
Additionally, hemp seeds are also known to promote your heart health, digestive health, prevents cancer and is good for your skin, nails and hair.
Over to You
If you are thinking about switching to Vegetarianism, you can substitute the meat in your daily diet with either, cottage cheese, jackfruit, lentils, buckwheat, Greek yogurt, edamame, hemp seeds, quinoa, tempeh or a combination of these. A plant-based meat-free diet is considered perfectly healthy and is believed to drive away many chronic diseases. As you can see that all these foods are highly beneficial for you, and regular consumption will add years to your life in the long run.
Only being a vegetarian will not help, you will have to plan your diet accordingly so that you consume only required amount of carbs and sugar. Eating cheese pizzas and sodas will certainly not help your health in anyway.
Previously not eating meat was associated with not enough protein in your diet, but that concept is history now. These well-known protein rich non-meat foods will provide you with adequate amount of protein without the added calories from meat. The risk of foodborne illness is also considerably reduced when you reduce your meat intake. Surely, it is clear by now, why vegetarianism is called the healthier way to eat.
Have you tried any of the above-mentioned food yet? If not, try them ASAP and decide for yourself which one is the best replacement for meat.
Until then, stay healthy and gorgeous!
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.